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What Is Sex?

Published: August 27, 2012
Dear What Is Sex?,

What exatly is sex?


Dear What Is Sex?,

Planned Parenthood offers the following answer to What Is Sex?

People define “sex” in different ways. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “sexually motivated behavior.” This sounds right to us. But not everyone agrees with the dictionary or with us. People all have their own definitions of what “sex” and “having sex” means.

For some people it’s only penis-in-vagina intercourse. For some people, it’s only penis-in-anus intercourse (anal sex). For some people, it’s genital rubbing without intercourse. For some people, it includes oral / genital contact. For some, it includes masturbation. The possibilities are many. For most experts (like Merriam-Webster and us), it includes all of the above.

However you define it, being sexual with another person — whether that means kissing, touching, or intercourse — involves a lot of responsibility.  It’s very important to protect yourself against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. And you need to make decisions about protection before you engage in vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

For more information on this topic, go to Planned Parenthood’s webpage, What is Sex? for information on sex, oral sex, when people start having sex, safer sex, and more.

If you have questions about sex, please speak to a trusted adult such as a parent or your doctor. If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-5199 for an appointment with an adolescent medicine specialist or contact your local teen health center or Planned Parenthood. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.

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